USA Boxing is in Salt Lake City as more than 700 compete in the Elite and Youth National Championships

(Courtesy of Maryguenn Vellinga) Park City's Maryguenn Vellinga.

More than 700 male and female boxers ranging in age from 8 to 40 will compete in the 2018 USA Boxing Elite and Youth National Championships and Junior Open this week at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Once again, Utah’s best hope for a national championship lies in the hands of two women who took up the sport later in life than most, Park City’s Maryguenn Vellinga and Herriman’s Whitney Gomez. Vellinga, a 36-year-old mother of two, is seeded fourth in the Elite Women’s flyweight division (112 lbs., or 51 kilograms), while Gomez is seeded second in the Elite Women’s light welterweight division (141 lbs., or 64 kilograms).

It is the second straight year that both Utah women have qualified for the national championships. Vellinga, a boxer of Guatemalan descent who grew up on a watermelon farm in Santaquin, was the 2018 Western Elite Qualifier champion. She will be trying to knock off 2018 Elite World Championships bronze medalist Virginia Fuchs of Kemah, Texas.

The top-seeded boxer in Gomez’s division is Ravven Brown of San Antonio. Gomez won this year’s Western Elite Qualifier.

The tournament begins Tuesday and runs through Saturday in Hall 4 at the convention center for the second consecutive year. Sessions begin at noon and 6 p.m. and admission is free Tuesday-through-Friday.

Saturday’s Elite Finals begin at 6 p.m. and admission for that event is $10.

The tournament also serves at the first qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Boxing Trials for those who are at least 19 years old and seeking a coveted spot to participate in the Games in Tokyo.

Winners in the junior (15-16) and youth (17-18) divisions will earn spots on USA Boxing’s High-Performance Squad. That gives them the opportunity to attend training camps at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

“We are looking forward to returning to Salt Lake City for another year of amazing boxing,” said USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee. “These championships are an important step towards qualifying for Team USA and their chance to try and qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”

Although no Utahns qualified for the the Men’s Elite bouts, the state is well-represented in the Junior and Youth divisions.

Layton’s Lucero Hernandez (110 lbs.), SLC’s Soledad Rodriguez (114 lbs.) and SLC’s Jackie Garcia (132 lbs.) are in the Youth Female Division.

West Haven’s Javier Game (101 lbs.), Riverton’s Tanner Gurule (108 lbs.), West Jordan’s Adrian Lopez (108 lbs.), SLC’s Robert Chairez (123 lbs.), Ogden’s Jayden Lopez (123 lbs.) and Kearns' Max Ruiz (132 lbs.) are entered in the Youth Male Division.

USA Boxing National Championships

When • Tuesday through Saturday

Where • Salt Palace Convention Center, Hall 4, Salt Lake City

Schedule • Two daily sessions with four rings running simultaneously (12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

Cost • Admission is free Tuesday through Friday; Admission to Saturday’s elite championship bouts at 6 p.m. is $10

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